I consider myself very fortunate.
I have never had trouble sleeping.
Well, no, that’s not true!
I have never had trouble sleeping except when I travel from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere – that is from Europe> Australia.
And age seems to be making it a lot more complicated to have a shut-eye after this never-ending trip.
It takes me a minimum of a week and a half to get out of a zombie-like state.
What do I do?
I have learned to just “go with the flow”.
I’m not a fan of the expression but in this case, it’s proven invaluable for me!
I just let my body do its own thing.
If I need a nap at 11 in the morning, then I nap at 11 in the morning.
If I wake up at 2 a.m., I start working
But I understand that strategy is not ideal if you don’t work from home and you have to show up at work next day.
Also, this is just like when you are pregnant!
Everyone will give you advice based on their experience, and some will even pull it out of a hat they’ve never even tried!
So, why don’t we see what the medical profession has to say about sleeping better when traveling at 50+?
The John Hopkins Educational Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, recommends following these steps.
7 tips to follow to sleep better when travelling at 50+
“We all have an optimal period in which our body wants to sleep, usually from around 11 pm to 7 am. This is known as a” circadian window,” says Charlene Gamaldo, medical director of the Johns Hopkins Centre for the Dream. “Every time you travel, especially if you cross two or more time zones, the circadian window is negatively affected.”
In addition, we all know that, as time goes by, sleep patterns tend to change.
As our brain ages, there is a degradation of neurons and circuits in the areas that regulate sleep.
Less slow sleep or REM – Rapid Eye Movement.
In other words, you are getting a lot less of the good stuff – the regenerative kind of sleep.
And if sleeping under normal circumstances is increasingly difficult with age, just imagine when you’re travelling!
What can we do to sleep better when travelling at 50+?
While traveling, follow the advice I shared in How to enjoy a long flight to the max at 50+.
When you reach your destination, the recommendations by the team at John Hopkins Hospital will come in very handy:
Three days before you are scheduled to travel, try changing your sleeping habit and timings.
Go to bed one hour earlier (or later, as appropriate) than usual.
Add another hour the second night and a third hour the third day.
Gamaldo points out that our body takes one day per time zone to adapt.
So, if you plan ahead, it can help you facilitate the transition.
Follow the local rhythm (in most cases)
After landing, try to synchronise your rhythm with the local time.
“If you land at noon when people are awake, that’s what you have to do too. Sleep as much as you can on the plane,” advises the good doctor. “If you’re going to land at night, try to stay awake on the plane and sleep in your destination”.
And follow the light!
If your flight lands early in the morning when traveling east, wear a pair of sunglasses to minimise exposure to light.
“It is preferable to obtain maximum exposure to light at the end of the morning and at the beginning of the afternoon” explains Gamaldo “because that makes your rhythm sync with the time zone of your destination.”
“The goal is to recalibrate the clock so that it is closer to bedtime at your destination,” says the doctor. “Eat outdoors or go for a walk later to speed up the syncing pace.”
Move your body
When you are ready to start the day take a warm shower and go out to exercise to tell your body that it’s time to get going.
The increase in core body temperature will act as a trigger for your circadian rhythm.
Help yourself with a little melatonin
Natural levels of the hormone melatonin generally increase approximately two hours before bedtime, preparing your body for rest.
If you travel, your body may need a little push.
Melatonin is available as an aid to sleep without a prescription in doses of up to 10 milligrams.
It helps your body produce natural melatonin at the right time when your schedule is a little messed up.
However, keep in mind that melatonin is not a cure for jet lag.
Studies indicate that daylight exposure is more effective in restoring your internal clock.
Follow a plan of attack!
One of the easiest ways to combat jet lag is to keep busy.
Following a well-structured plan for the first day of the trip.
If you arrive at your destination and you have no idea what to do or how to move about, you may feel overwhelmed and resort to spending the day at your accommodation.
Attack your destination with a plan.
If you planned in advance, and even if you bought tickets for certain activities in advance, you will be much more motivated to go out and make the most of the day.
For example, why not schedule a guided walking tour?
Pre-select your accommodation
Staying in the bustling centre of a city can be part of the exciting tourist experience.
An exciting experience which doesn’t generally sit in very well with the Nomad@50+ .
So, before making your reservation, read the comments and evaluations.
Pay attention to warnings such as:
– Complaints about the room itself: These include (but are not limited to) bed bugs, beds that cause back pain, worn curtains that let in excessive light, or noisy air conditioning units.
– Noisy streets: “lovely apartment in the Piazza di Spagna in Rome” sounds incredibly romantic until the out-of-tune chanting by the many tourists who had far too much Chianti keep you awake the entire night!
Follow a routine (as much as possible)
Do you usually listen to music before going to sleep at home?
Do you like reading a book?
Chatting with your partner?
Try following the same rituals you follow each night before bedtime.
If after a long day traveling your body doesn’t want to adjust to its new temporary space, try to relax with these daily routines…
As your body recognises those nocturnal activities and begins to associate them with rest, it will be more prepared to fall into a restful sleep.